A chart that accompanied a June 1 story on the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib incorrectly indentified Lt. Lewis C. Raeder as having invoked his right against self-incrimination in proceedings related to the scandal. Raeder, who has received a letter of admonishment for not properly training soldiers under his command in the Geneva Conventions, has not invoked that right.
Dates on Prison Photos Show Two Phases of Abuse
Tuesday, June 1, 2004
On May 1, a U.S. Army investigator took the stand in a criminal proceeding in Baghdad against one of the seven military police soldiers charged in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. There was, he said, "absolutely no evidence" that military intelligence officers or the military police chain of command had authorized the abuse to aid interrogations.
"These individuals were acting on their own," said Army special agent Tyler Pieron, who investigated the case for the Criminal Investigation Division. "The photos I saw, and the totality of our interviews, show that certain individuals were just having fun at the expense of the prisoners. Taking pictures of sexual positions, the assaults and things along that nature were done simply because they could. It all happened after hours. The fear instilled in the prisoners after these incidents may have been a benefit, but I don't know for sure."
A month later, that assessment has hardened into the accepted position on the abuse scandal for the Bush administration and the Pentagon. Yet an analysis of the dates of the photographs that form the heart of the case against the MPs provides a more nuanced picture.
Some of the photographs support the theory that MPs sought to humiliate prisoners for entertainment. The infamous shots show a naked human pyramid, a hooded man standing on a box and detainees forced to masturbate -- acts that apparently were staged to punish prisoners or amuse guards, not specifically to coerce confessions for military intelligence (MI).
But questions remain about the shots of snarling dogs intimidating detainees. The photos were taken weeks after the most publicized MP abuse occurred, according to date stamps accompanying photographs obtained by The Washington Post. The date stamps, which are in a database obtained by The Post that was apparently compiled by military investigators, show that the widely published photograph of a naked man confronted by unmuzzled German shepherds was taken on Dec. 12 -- a month after the human pyramid and during a period when military intelligence officers were in formal control of the prison.
The date stamps reveal that the recording of the abuses started shortly after the MPs arrived at the prison and built to a crescendo of perversity, with the naked human pyramid on Nov. 8. One of the photographed incidents stands out because it contains military intelligence officers in the frame -- showing soldiers gathered around three naked men lying shackled together on Oct. 25. Finally, the photographs suggest that two distinct types of abuse occurred at the prison. First, sexual humiliation and crude brutality at the hands of the MPs. Then, the more targeted use of dogs.
The photographs have always been a tantalizing but limited body of evidence. They are hard to dispute, but it is also hard to know what happened outside the frame or in between the photographs. Transcripts show that investigators aimed to get the stories behind the images.
"Our main purpose was to identify the personnel in the photos; we also wanted to find out if MI told MPs to do these acts," Pieron said. "If so, we wanted to know who told them; that's why we interviewed everyone. No one said, 'Do this to that person,' or anything specific."
Of the seven MPs charged in the case, at least three have given statements suggesting that military intelligence fostered the abuse. But those MPs provided few specifics and did not identify any military intelligence officers by name. The MPs said other soldiers -- Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II and Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr. -- acted as liaisons with military intelligence, but one soldier said that "nothing was ever in writing." Graner and Frederick have invoked their right against self-incrimination and declined to give statements.
Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, whom top commanders asked to look into the abuse, said in his report that he suspected that two military intelligence commanders at the prison and two civilian contractors working with military intelligence were "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses."
Maj. Gen. George R. Fay is now investigating the role of military intelligence in the scandal.